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Curacao information -

Curacao Facts

Anthem Himno di Kòrsou (Lyrics - )
Capital Willemstad (12°7′N, 68°56′W)
Official languages Dutch, Papiamento, English
Government Part of the Netherlands Antilles
 - Prime Minister of N.A. Emily de Jongh-Elhage
 - Governor of N.A. Frits Goedgedrag  
Constitutional monarchy Part of the Netherlands Antilles, separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands as from December 15, 2008
 - Total 444 km²
171.4 square miles
 - 2006 census 138,000
 - Density 391/km² (ranked as part of N. A.)
151/sq mi
Currency Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG)
Time zone -4
Internet TLD .an
Calling code +599

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Further information can be found below:

Origin of the name Curaçao
The origin of the name Curaçao is still under debate. One explanation is that it is derived from the Portuguese word for 'heart' (coração), referring to the island as a centre in trade. Spanish traders took the name over as Curaçao, which was followed by the Dutch. Another explanation is that Curaçao was the name the indigenous peoples of Curaçao had used to label themselves (Joubert and Baart, 1994). This theory is supported by early Spanish accounts, which refer to the indigenous peoples as "Indios Curaçaos".

Whatever the origin of the name, after 1525 the island appeared on Spanish maps as "Curaçote," "Curasaote," and "Curasaore." By the seventeenth century the island was generally known on all maps as "Curaçao" or "Curazao".

On a map created by Hieronymus Cock in 1562 in Antwerp, the island was referred to as Quracao.

The name "Curaçao" has become associated with a particular shade of blue, and is sometimes used as an adjective, because of the deep-blue liqueur named "Blue Curaçao".

The original inhabitants of Curaçao were Arawak Amerindians. The first Europeans to see the island were members of a Spanish expedition under the leadership of Alonso de Ojeda in 1499. The Spaniards exported most of the indigenous population to other colonies where workers were needed. The island was occupied by the Dutch in 1634. The Dutch West India Company founded the capital of Willemstad on the banks of an inlet called the 'Schottegat'. Curaçao had been previously ignored by colonists because it lacked many things that colonists were interested in, such as gold deposits. However, the natural harbour of Willemstad proved quickly to be an ideal spot for trade. Commerce and shipping — but also piracy — became Curaçao's most important economic activities. In addition, Curaçao came to play a pivotal role in one of the most intricate international trade networks in history: the Atlantic slave trade. The Dutch West India Company made Curaçao a center for slave trade in 1662. Dutch merchants brought slaves from Africa under a trading agreement with Spain called Asiento. Under this agreement, slaves were sold and shipped to various destinations in South America and the Caribbean. At the height of the trade, large numbers of slaves were traded here.

The slave trade made the island affluent, and led to the construction of impressive colonial buildings that still stand today. Curaçao features architecture that blends various Dutch and Spanish colonial styles. The wide range of other historic buildings in and around Willemstad earned the capital a place on UNESCO's world heritage list. Landhouses (former plantation estates) and West African style 'kas di pal'i maishi' (former slave dwellings) are scattered all over the island and some of them have been restored and can be visited.

Curaçao's proximity to South America translated into a long-standing influence from the nearby Latin American coast. This is reflected in the architectural similarities between the 19th century parts of Willemstad and the nearby Venezuelan city of Coro in Falcón State, the latter also being a UNESCO world heritage site. In the 19th century, Curaçaoans such as Manuel Piar and Luis Brión were prominently engaged in the wars of independence of Venezuela and Colombia. Political refugees from the mainland (like Bolivar himself) regrouped in Curaçao and children from affluent Venezuelan families were educated in the island.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the island changed hands among the British, the French, and the Dutch several times. Stable Dutch rule returned in 1815, at the end of the Napoleonic wars. The Dutch abolished slavery in 1863. The end of slavery caused economic hardship, prompting many inhabitants of Curaçao to emigrate to other islands, such as to Cuba to work in sugarcane plantations.

When in 1914 oil was discovered in the Maracaibo Basin town of Mene Grande, the fortunes of the island were dramatically altered. Royal Dutch Shell and the Dutch Government had built an extensive oil refinery installation on the former site of the slave-trade market at Asiento, thereby establishing an abundant source of employment for the local population and fueling a wave of immigration from surrounding nations. Curaçao was an ideal site for the refinery as it was away from the social and civil unrest of the South American mainland, but near enough to the Maracaibo Basin oil fields. It also had an excellent natural harbor that could accommodate large oil tankers. The company brought a degree of affluence to the island. Large housing was provided and Willemstad developed an extensive infrastructure. However, discrepancies started to appear amongst the social groups of Curaçao. The discontent and the antagonisms between Curaçao social groups culminated in large scale rioting and protest on May 30, 1969. The civil unrest fueled a social movement that resulted in the local Afro-Caribbean population attaining more influence over the political process (Anderson and Dynes 1975). The island also developed a tourist industry and offered low corporate taxes to encourage many companies to set up holdings in order to avoid rigorous schemes elsewhere. In the mid 1980s Royal Shell sold the refinery for a symbolic amount to a local government consortium. The government consortium currently leases the refinery to the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA. In recent years, the island had attempted to capitalize on its peculiar history and heritage to expand its tourism industry.

In 1984 the Island Council of Curaçao inaugurated the National Flag and the official anthem of the island. This was done on July 2, which was the date when in 1954 the first elected island council was instituted. Since then, the movement to separate the island from the Antillean federation has steadily become stronger.

Due to an economic slump in recent years, emigration to the Netherlands has been high. Attempts by Dutch politicians to stem this flow of emigration have exacerbated already tense Dutch-Curaçao relations. In turn, a lot of immigration from surrounding Caribbean islands and Latin American countries has also taken place. This means that the population base is changing.

Like Aruba and Bonaire, Curaçao is a transcontinental island that is geographically part of South America but is also considered to be part of West Indies and one of the Leeward Antilles. Curaçao and the other ABC Islands are in terms of climate, geology, flora and fauna more akin to nearby Paraguaná Peninsula, Isla Margarita and the nearby Venezuelan areas of the Coro region and Falcón State. Curaçao has a semi-arid savanna-like climate and lies outside the hurricane belt. The flora of Curaçao differs from the typical tropical island vegetation. Xeric scrublands are common, with various forms of cacti, thorny shrubs, evergreens, and the island's symbolic divi-divis. Curaçao's highest point is the 375 metre (1,230 ft) Christoffelberg ("Mount Christoffel") in the northwestern part of the island. This lies in the reserved wildlife park, Curaçao Christoffelpark, and can be explored by car, bike or horse or on foot. Several trails have been laid out. Curaçao has many places where one can hike. There are Saliñas, salt marshes where flamingos fly out to rest and feed. 15 miles off the coast of Curaçao, to the southeast, lies the small, uninhabited island of Klein Curaçao ("Little Curaçao").

Curaçao is renowned for its coral reefs which makes it an excellent spot for scuba diving. The beaches on the south side contain many popular diving spots. An unusual feature of Curaçao diving is that the sea floor drops off steeply within a few hundred feet of the shore, and the reef can easily be reached without a boat. This drop-off is locally known as the "blue edge." Strong currents and lack of beaches make the rocky northern coast dangerous for swimming and diving, but experienced divers sometimes dive there from boats when conditions permit. The southern coast is very different and offers remarkably calm waters. The coastline of Curaçao features many bays and inlets, many of them suitable for mooring.

Some of the coral reefs have been affected by tourism. Porto Marie beach is experimenting with artificial coral reefs in order to improve the reef's condition. Hundreds of artificial coral blocks that have been placed are now home to a large array of tropical fish.

Curaçao gained self-government on January 1, 1954 as an island territory of the Netherlands Antilles. Despite this, the islanders did not fully participate in the political process until after the social movements of the late '60s. In the 2000s the political status of the island has been under discussion again, as for the other islands of the Netherlands Antilles, regarding the relationship with the Netherlands and between the islands of the Antilles.

In a referendum held on April 8, 2005, together with Sint Maarten, the residents voted for a separate status outside the Netherlands Antilles, like Aruba, rejecting the options for full independence, becoming part of the Netherlands, or retaining the status quo. In 2006, Emily de Jongh-Elhage, a resident of Curaçao, was elected as the new prime minister of the Netherlands Antilles.

On July 1, 2007, the island of Curaçao was due to become an autonomous associated state, under the Kingdom of the Netherlands. On November 28, 2006, the island council rejected a clarificatory memorandum on the process. On July 9, 2007 the new island council of Curaçao approved the agreement previously rejected in November 2006. On December 15, 2008 Curaçao will become a separate country within the Kingdom of the Netherlands (like Aruba and the Netherlands Antilles are now).

Public education is based on the Dutch educational system. Until recently, all instruction was provided in Dutch. Now, bilingual primary education in Papiamentu and Dutch is also available. Private and parochial schools also exist on the island. The International School Of Curaçao provides education for English-speaking immigrants.

Higher education in Curaçao, as in the rest of the Netherlands Antilles, is good relative to regional standards. The main institute of higher learning is the University of the Netherlands Antilles (UNA).

Although a few plantations were established on the island by the Dutch, the first profitable industry established on Curaçao was salt mining. The mineral was an extremely lucrative export at the time and became one of the major factors responsible for drawing the island into international commerce. Curaçao also became a center for slave trade during the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, phosphate mining also became significant. All the while, Curaçao's fine deep water ports and ideal location in the Caribbean were crucial in making it a significant center of commerce.

Today, Curaçao enjoys one of the highest standards of living in the Caribbean, with a GDP per capita of ca. US$ 18.000 (2007) and an excellent infrastructure which is among the best in the Caribbean. The main industries of the island include oil refining, tourism and financial services. Shipping, international trade and other activities related to the port of Willemstad (like the Free Zone) also makes a considerable contribution to the economy. With the government realizing that its economy needs be more diverse, significant efforts are being made to attract more foreign investments. This policy is called the 'Open Arms' policy with one of its main features to focus heavily on Information Technology companies. For its size, the island has a considerable diversed economy which doesn't rely mostly on tourism only like on many other Caribbean islands.

Curaçao has strong business ties with both the United States and the European Union. It has an Association Agreement with the European Union which allows companies which do business in and via Curaçao to export many products to European markets, free of import duties and quotas. It is also a participant in the US Caribbean Basin Initiative allowing it to have preferential access to the US market.

As in the Netherlands, prostitution is legal. A large open-air brothel called "Le Mirage" or "Campo Alegre" operates near the airport since the 1940s. As prostitution exists in most parts of the world, Curaçao has implemented a different approach on handling prostitution. By monitoring, containing and regulating it, the workers in these establishments are given a safe environment and access to medical practitioners.


Because of its history, the island's population comes from many ethnic backgrounds. There is a majority of mixed Afro-Caribbean and European descent, and also sizeable minorities of Dutch, Latin American, South Asian, East Asian, Portuguese and Levantine people. The Sephardic Jews that arrived from the Netherlands and then-Dutch Brazil since the 17th century have had a significant influence on the culture and economy of the island. The years before and after World War II also saw an influx of Ashkenazi Jews from Eastern Europe. Many Portuguese and Lebanese also migrated to Curaçao in the early 19th century due to the financial possibilities of the island. East and South Asian migrants came to Curaçao during the economic boom of the early 20th century. There are also many recent immigrants from neighbouring countries, most notably the Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Anglophone Caribbean and Colombia. In recent years the influx of Dutch pensioners has increased significantly, dubbed locally as pensionados.

According to the 2001 census, the majority of the inhabitants of Curaçao are Roman Catholic (85%). This includes a shift towards the Charismatic Renewal or Charismatic movement since the mid-seventies. Other major denominations are the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Methodist Church. Alongside these Christian denominations, some inhabitants practice Montamentu, and other diasporic African religions. Like elsewhere in Latin America, Pentecostalism is on the rise. There are practicing Muslims as well as Hindus.

Though small in size, Curaçao's Jewish community has a significant impact on history. Curaçao boasts the oldest active Jewish congregation in the Americas, dating to 1651, and the oldest synagogue of the Americas, in continuous use since its completion in 1732 on the site of a previous synagogue. The Jewish Community of Curaçao also played a key role in supporting early Jewish congregations in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, including in New York City and the Touro Synagogue of Newport, Rhode Island. Also see List of Caribbean Jews.


Curaçao is a polyglot society. The languages widely spoken are Papiamentu, Dutch, Spanish, and English. Many people can speak all four of these languages. Spanish and English both have a long historical presence on the island alongside Dutch and Papiamentu. Spanish remained an important language throughout the 18th and 19th centuries as well due to the close economic ties with nearby Venezuela and Colombia. The use of English dates back to the early 19th century, when Curaçao became a British colony. In fact, after the restoration of Dutch rule in 1815, colonial officers already noted wide use of English among the island (van Putte 1999). Recent immigration from the Anglophone Caribbean and the Netherlands Antillean islands of (St. Eustatius, Saba and Sint Maarten)—where the primary language is English—as well as the ascendancy of English as a world language, has intensified the use of English on Curaçao. For much of colonial history, Dutch was never as widely spoken as English or Spanish and remained exclusively a language for administration and legal matters; popular use of Dutch increased towards the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century (van Putte 1999).

Historically, education on Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire had been predominantly in Spanish up until the late 19th century. There were also efforts to introduce bilingual popular education in Dutch and Papiamentu in the late 19th century (van Putte 1999). Dutch was made the sole language of instruction in the educational system in the early 20th century to facilitate education for the offspring of expatriate employees of Royal Dutch Shell (Romer, 1999). Papiamento was tentatively re-introduced in the school curriculum during the mid-1980s. Recent political debate has centered on the issue of Papiamentu becoming the sole language of instruction. Proponents of making Papiamentu the sole language of instruction argue that it will help to preserve the language and will improve the quality of primary and secondary school education. Proponents of Dutch-language instruction argue that students who study in Dutch will be better prepared for the free university education offered to Curaçao residents in the Netherlands.

Effective July 1, 2007, the Netherlands Antilles declared Dutch, Papiamentu, and English as official languages, in recognition of the Dutch-speaking, Papiamentu-speaking and English-speaking communities of all the islands.

Despite the island's relatively small population, the diversity of languages and cultural influences on Curaçao have generated a remarkable literary tradition, primarily in Dutch and Papiamento. The oral traditions of the Arawak indigenous peoples are lost. West African slaves brought the tales of Anansi, thus forming the basis of Papiamento literature. The first published work in Papiamento was a poem by Joesph Sickman Corsen entitled Atardi, published in the La Cruz newspaper in 1905. Throughout Curaçaoan literature, narrative techniques and metaphors best characterized as magic realism tend to predominate. Novelists and poets from Curaçao have made an impressive contribution to Caribbean and Dutch literature. Best known are Cola Debrot, Frank Martinus Arion, Pierre Lauffer, Elis Juliana,Guillermo Rosario, Boeli van Leeuwen and Tip Marugg.

Local food is called Krioyo (pronounced the same as criollo, the Spanish word for "Creole") and boasts a blend of flavours and techniques best compared to Caribbean cuisine and Latin American cuisine. Dishes common in Curaçao are found in Aruba and Bonaire as well. Popular dishes include: stobá (a stew made with various ingredients such as papaya, beef or goat), Guiambo (soup made from okra and seafood), kadushi (cactus soup), sopi mondongo (intestine soup), funchi (cornmeal paste similar to fufu, ugali and polenta) and a lot of fish and other seafood. The ubiquitous side dish is fried plantain. Local bread rolls are made according to a Portuguese recipe. All around the island, there are snèk which serve local dishes as well as alcoholic drinks in a manner akin to the English pub. Around the holiday season special dishes are consumed, such as the hallaca and pekelé, made out of salt cod. At weddings and other special occasions a variety of kos dushi are served: kokada (coconut sweets), ko'i lechi (condensed milk and sugar sweet) and tentalaria (peanut sweets). The Curaçao liqueur was developed here, when a local experimented with the rinds of a locally grown variety of bitter oranges. Surinamese, Chinese, Indonesian, Indian and Dutch culinary influences also abound. The island also has a lot of Chinese restaurants that serve mainly satay, nasi and lumpia. Dutch specialties such as croquettes and oliebollen are widely served in homes and restaurants.

For the past seven years the baseball team from Willemstad, Curaçao has made it all the way to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. The team features players from ages 11 and 12 who get a chance to represent the Caribbean region. In 2004 the team from Willemstad, Curaçao won the title game against the United States champion from Thousand Oaks, California. The following year the team from Curaçao made it right back to the championship game but were defeated by Ewa Beach, Hawaii after Michael Memea hit a walk-off home run to win the title game for Hawaii. In 2007 the team lost to Japan in the International Championship game.

The prevailing trade winds and warm water make Curaçao a very good location for windsurfing, although the nearby islands of Aruba and Bonaire are far better known in the sport. One factor is that the deep water around Curaçao makes it difficult to lay marks for major windsurfing events, thus hindering the island's success as a windsurfing destination. Similarly, the warm clear water around the island makes Curaçao a mecca for diving.

Famous people from Curaçao

Source: Wikipedia